- Ivan Langrish
- Mar 31, 2021
Lauren Power, HBA ’22, would regularly walk through London’s Victoria Park on her way to get her morning coffee. A simple, comforting ritual. However, particularly as winter began to take its grip, she began to notice just how many people in the park had little in the way of comfort.
“I found it very difficult to continuously walk by the same people and all of their belongings are right beside them,” said Power. “It just didn’t sit right with me living in a nice place in London while people were living outside. Obviously, in the winter it can get very dangerous, and a lot of people don’t make it.”
Power, who heads up Western’s chapter of the Duke of Edinburgh Club, decided she needed to do something to help London’s vulnerable homeless population.
Originally, Power thought her and some friends would simply gather items from their closets and pantries and hand them out to people in need. That was until she applied for, and received a Passion to Purpose grant through the Duke of Edinburgh organization. The $2,000 grant aimed at supporting local community initiatives, suddenly kick started her efforts into gear after the Christmas holidays.
The idea was now growing into developing care packages such as duffel bags with winter clothing, protein shakes and other small items.
However, Power started to explore other avenues, reaching out to well-known business people within her high school’s alumni network at Appleby College. With dogged determination, and perhaps some good fortune, she connected with Mark Hubner from Baffin Footwear securing a $10,000 cash donation, and 41 pairs of much needed winter boots worth in excess of $7,000. Another alum, Thomas Longo, of Longo’s grocery fame, stepped up with discounted food items and free delivery to London through Grocery Gateway.
“So, it really did snowball into something much bigger than I initially expected.”
Now it was time to go shopping. Working with Mission Services of London, Power and fellow Duke of Edinburgh Club members Angel Luo and Melanie Peck, fanned out to buy over 50 winter coats, underwear, socks, scarves, hats, and well in excess of 500 grocery and personal care items. Along with the boots donated from Baffin, the carefully curated goods were distributed to two local area shelters throughout the month of March.
“At Mission Services of London, we are convinced that it is our collective community response to people experiencing homelessness and poverty that in the end, will make the difference. Alone, we are very limited,” said Gordon Russell, Director of Shelters, Mission Services of London. “Together, we acknowledge that people experiencing disadvantages of one kind or another, are fundamentally our neighbours. These are just words until someone or a group steps in closer to help. Lauren Power and her friends at the Duke of Edinburgh group at Western, have stepped in to help with the basics. They are making a difference!”
As the initiative grew, Power also took the time to get to know some of the individuals who frequent Victoria Park.
“Nobody really takes the time to speak to the people, so you really don’t know what is going on. Sometimes they just need someone to stick their hand out, and help them get off the ground, or get through the winter.”
Power, who has done some volunteer work over the years, says this is the first big initiative she’s taken on. Her advice is to start small.
“Find something that speaks to you. If you are passionate about it you’ll be able to accomplish something…even helping someone in a small way can have a really big impact.”
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